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IS PRAYER NECESSARY?

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Lk. 18: 1-8

The widow in today’s Gospel teaches us about the power and necessity of prayer. More confusion surrounds prayer than any other religious activity. Some think of it as the way to get God on their side, others pray to inform God of their needs and many see prayer as a means of convincing God of their faith. All these views of prayer have nothing to do with its real purpose!

If we want to know why and how we should pray Jesus is our Teacher. By His example of seeking lonely places in which to pray, including the desert, He taught us the importance of praying in secret. When He gave us the “Our Father” He taught us to Whom we are to direct our prayers, and to get our priorities correct, to acknowledge God first and then to pray for our needs. In today’s Gospel Jesus saw the necessity to teach us to pray at all times and to persevere in prayer.

What is the point of praying since God knows our needs better than we do? We pray in order to remain close to God and we are aware that, because all good things come from God, He is able and willing to meet our needs. It is Jesus Himself who has said, “Ask and you will receive.” And again, “Ask the Father anything in My Name and He will grant it.” So when we pray we do not need to overcome any reluctance on His part. God is not like the judge in our Gospel story whom the widow wore down. He granted her request not because he cared about her problem, but because he could take no more of her pestering him. God is not like that - He knows about our needs and is eager to meet them.

So why does Jesus tell us that we must pray at all times? It is because He knows it will keep us close to God. A closeness to Him makes us see the wisdom of His point of view. It helps us to think as He thinks. His priorities become ours. It teaches us to ask only for those needs that we know He would like us to have. When we stop praying our friendship with God wanes and we become self-centred. It is our world and not God’s that is important. We no longer think as He thinks.

We must also remember that there are things God cannot give us unless we pray. They must be sought after and prayed for before the can be given to us. Parents with plenty of money can give their son seven years at the best public school, for example, but unless their son is willing to benefit from this education, those parents are wasting their efforts and their money.

So it is with God. His willingness to give is dependent upon our prayers. What do we really want? How badly do we want it? Are we willing to ask and keep asking? Are we willing to wait? If we are, then, God can and will present us with His finest gifts. But until and unless we pray, there are some things that even God will not give us.

There are people who give up praying if their requests are not answered at once or even after a time. They are impatient. But they must be like the widow and keep asking for what they want, confident that in time their request will be granted. Many good parents never give their children all they ask. A teenager may want a motor bike but his parents, aware of how many young people are killed riding them, decide that when he is 21 they will buy him a car. They act like this because they have his best interests at heart and that they really love him. God is like that. If not given what we want immediately it could be because that would not be good for us at that time. God might even keep us waiting because either He has something better to give us or He wishes to test our love for Him.

Heavenly Father, give us the grace to pray at all times and to persevere in our prayers. Never let us lose confidence in You for You always have our best interests at heart.

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